Today (Sept. 24) social media users around the world are lighting candles and sharing photos to remember the millions of pets who lost their lives to euthanasia, and those who are still at risk in animal shelters. Now in it’s third year, this global awareness campaign known as Remember Me Thursday is using the hashtag #LightForPets to draw attention to the plight of adoptable animals. Carrie Ann Inaba of Dancing With The Stars is the official spokesperson of Remember Me Thursday 2015. The lifelong cat lover and animal advocate has participated in the social media event since it was established, and she hopes to encourage others to light their own candles today.
“My whole life has been changed and improved by my rescue animals,” says the Dancing With The Stars judge, who currently lives with three dogs and two cats. Although the dogs outnumber the cats in her household these days, the ratio is no reflection of Inaba’s fondness for felines.
“I will say I’m more of a cat person,” she explains, adding that she grew up with cats and continued to care for them as she developed her career as a dancer. Inaba says cats were very adaptable to the demands of her work and travel schedule and proved to be the perfect pet match for her.
“I’m just really, really good with cats,” she says. “I can just kind of sense what they need.”
Over the years, Inaba adopted several rescue kitties, all of whom had various special needs throughout their lives. She credits much of her career success to the unconditional cat love she received from the special kitties she has cared for.
“I really am who I am today because of them,” she explains.
According to Inaba, the world would be a better place if more people knew the love of a companion animal, and that’s just one reason she gives back to animalkind.
When her first rescue cat, Shadow, died in 2011 after 19 years by her side, the DWTS judge started the Animal Project Foundation as a way to honor his life while helping other pets.
“We provide emergency rescue funding for animals that are highly adoptable but that are maybe heading toward the end of the line in the shelter and could be euthanized the next day,” she says. “We get the transport, we get the medical funding, we get the training funding and the grooming — all of that to get them ready to be adopted out.”
Through the foundation and Inaba’s other animal advocacy work — such as The Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Remember Me Thursday — Shadow’s memory lives on, as do the legacies of Inaba’s two other recently departed cats; 14-year-old Taz, who passed after a long battle with a chronic kidney condition, and 20-year-old Squeaker, who died in May of this year. Inaba says Shadow, Squeaker, and Taz were the light of her life, and she cherishes every moment she was able to spend with each of the three rescued cats.
“One came from a shelter, one walked into my home off the street, and one of them I found under a car,” she recalls. “There’s something so beautiful about being able to give them the love they need and see how the love actually does heal them.”
That couldn’t be more true than in the case of Inaba’s current feline companions, who were able to stop taking medication after joining her rescue family.
“I have two cats right now, Blizzard and Mimi, and they both come from an organization called Heaven on Earth Society for Animals, which is an organization that I’ve worked with for a long time,” she says. “They are an incredible cat rescue, a no-kill shelter. They specialize in the old folks.”
Senior cats such as Blizzard and Mimi face terrible odds of adoption in animal shelters, and many are euthanized. Remember Me Thursday will honor those cats, as well as all the other pets who are euthanized annually.
“It’s a lot of animals — 3.4 million animals every year who lose their lives in the shelters because of euthanization, because of pet overpopulation or being discarded,” says Inaba. “It’s really too many, and that’s why this campaign is so important.”
It’s important enough that Inaba will take a moment to celebrate Remember Me Thursday on the set of DWTS.
“We’re going to take a photo of as many cast members as I can rally with our candles to celebrate Remember Me Thursday,” she says, adding that she’s encouraging all pet lovers to do the same and tweet, Instagram or Facebook their pics with the hashtag #LightForPets.
“Last year there was about 200 million media impressions,” she says, “and we’re hoping to better this year, because obviously the more awareness we can spread, the more animals will be saved.”
Inaba says taking to social media to remember the animals who’ve lost their lives in shelters — and those who are still waiting in one — is an easy way to advocate for orphaned pets:
“It’s a simple thing to do. The imagery is so beautiful with everybody and their candles. It just feels so good and it just sends out a really beautiful message to people to remember all of the pets that don’t have homes and still need homes. It encourages people to get into the shelters and adopt.”
To be a part of Remember Me Thursday, spread the word on social media using #LightForPets, organize a local candle ceremony, or light a virtual candle at www.remembermethursday.org.
About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten, GhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +.